Swansea vs. Arsenal Preview: Can the Impressive Away Form Continue?
The last time both teams played competitive football, they both featured weak squads in the Capital One Cup. Arsene Wenger fielded a special blend of experience and youth but he still had to rely on the lottery of penalties to seal an enticing fourth round fixture against Chelsea. Swansea on the other hand, weren’t so lucky with their overhauled squad, as they crashed out of the competition following a 3-1 surprise defeat to Birmingham City.
In the Premier League, Swansea is currently on ninth place after five games, and they are level on points with Manchester United, Hull, Stoke and Newcastle. To be fair with the Swans, they have already faced Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool this season, losing to the first two clubs in the aforementioned list but they salvaged a draw against Liverpool in their last home game, with Jonjo Shelvey grabbing the headlines for more reasons than one.
Going into this weekend, they had the best pass completion rate in the Premier League this season (87.3%) and with victories over West Brom and Crystal Palace, Michael Laudrup’s side are finding their feet and Arsenal has to be mindful about the fact that they have scored the earliest goals this season with Shelvey scoring Liverpool after 87 seconds and Miguel Michu scoring Palace after 80 seconds.
Swansea’s greatest threat against the Gunners will be the man that scored three goals in three games against them last season, Michu. Following his impressive start to his Premier League career last season, Michu has already scored two goals and he has had his fair share of assists as well, making him a creative force for Swansea. Michu has created 12 goalscoring chances this season already and he has the most shots (18) from open play for Swansea.
Arsenal on the other hand, would hinge their hopes on the goalscoring forms of Olivier Giroud and the Welsh Dragon that’s returning home, Aaron Ramsey. The midfielder has a little thigh injury but the manager has confirmed that he will be fit for the game. Ramsey has made 387 passes this season with a pass completion percentage of 89 percent. He also leads the club’s goalscoring charts with seven goals in eight games, which is hugely impressive. Last season, Aaron Ramsey scored one goal from 46 shots in the league. In 2013-14 he has so far scored three league goals from 12 shots and has seven goals in all competitions.
To injuries, Swansea are sweating over the fitness of their captain, Ashley Williams, as he’s currently nursing an ankle injury and he remains doubtful for the game. However, they will be without winger Pablo Hernandez, that is still out with a hamstring injury. At Arsenal, the usual suspects Arsenal: Rosicky (hamstring), Sanogo (back), Cazorla (ankle), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Podolski (hamstring), Walcott (abdomen) and Diaby (knee) are still out, but the Czech maestro could be in line for a timely return against Napoli.
To team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to return in goal with his usual defensive rearguard in front of him, as Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna would man the fullback positions while Laurent Koscielny would replace Thomas Vermaelen to play alongside the ever-present Per Mertesacker.
Arsene Wenger will have some problems in midfield as the absence of Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and the Ox will ensure that he has to play one of his versatile midfielders out of position on the right wing. Serge Gnabry played when Walcott pulled out of the Stoke game but his performance in midweek has clearly shown that he’s not ready to make that step up required of him.
With this in mind, Wenger would probably start Mikel Arteta and the fit-again Mathieu Flamini in the middle of the pack, while moving Aaron Ramsey to the creative hub of the team. With Ramsey’s confidence in front of goal, he certainly wouldn’t mind playing here. This would mean that Jack Wilshere could start on the right while Mesut Ozil would man the left flank. Ozil has created more chances (10) in two Premier League games than any Manchester United player has done all season. Giroud would lead the line.
I expect both lineups to look like this,
The Gunners are looking to extend their club record of consecutive away wins to 12 and they have have lost only two of their last 21 Premier League games. (W16, D3, L2).
The million pound question would be – can the impressive away form continue?
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